Responding to disclosures of sexual assault or sexual misconduct
If you have a helping role in your community, chances are fair that at some time, someone who has experienced sexual violence will disclose to you. The Ontario Coalition of Rape Crisis Centres provides the following suggestions for what you can do or say to help:
DO believe the discloser.
DO tell the discloser that it's not his or her fault. Nobody invites sexual assault or wants to be sexually assaulted.
DO be aware of myths and misconceptions about sexual violence.
DO know your professional responsibilities around responding to sexual assaults perpetrated by other professionals. DO support survivors in responding to and reporting these incidents in a transparent and consistent manner.
DO refer the survivor to a hospital, clinic or doctor that can provide medical help and testing for unplanned pregnancy, HIV and sexually-transmitted infection.
DO refer to colleagues in the community who are able to assist further. In the Windsor/Essex area the Sexual Assault Crisis Centre offers a 24-hour a day crisis line and many other services.
Sexual Assault Crisis Centre
1770 Langlois Avenue
Windsor, ON N8X 4M5
24-hour crisis line: 519-253-9667
DO protect the discloser’s confidentiality.
DO tell the discloser about any limits to your confidentiality (for example, if you have a professional responsibility to disclose), under what circumstances, and why. If there is a course of action you are legally obligated to take, explain what this is and why.
DON'T react with disbelief, disgust or anger at what the survivor tells you.
DO NOT give advice:
"If I were you, I'd...“
“You have to tell your room-mate/parents/police/other person what happened...”
“If you don’t charge this guy, he’ll just do it again...”
DO NOT insist or coax the survivor into any course of action. If there is a course of action you are legally obliged to take, explain what this is and why.
DO NOT call the police against the discloser’s wishes unless you are required to do so. Know your professional responsibilities. Not all sexual assault disclosures must be reported by you. In many cases, survivors have the right to choose to report or not to report.
DO NOT conduct an “investigation” into the discloser’s story or grill for details.
Material excerpted from Ontario Coalition of Rape Crisis Centres (n.d.) Dealing with Sexual Assault Disclosures: Creating an emotionally safe response when somebody tells you they have been sexually assaulted.